Top 5 Duty Stations of the Navy
Top 5 Duty Stations of the Navy

5-Norfolk, VA- Naval Station Norfolk, NAS Oceana and others

Naval Station Norfolk
Naval Station Norfolk







If you’re looking for a job in the Navy, move to Virginia. Housing market is cheap. HUGE navy presence so there’s a large support system available. A little lacking in off-base activities but it may be perfect for those looking for a slower pace. You get all four seasons, so for those who don’t prefer a specific climate. Virginia’s for you.


4-Jacksonville, FL- Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and Naval Station Mayport.

Naval Air Station Jacksonville
Naval Air Station Jacksonville





Warm weather, cheap housing market, plenty of activities. Jacksonville is good for the Sailors and Families who want the best bang for their buck in terms of housing. Sure, there’s a few bugs and alligators involved. But you’re into touristy-activities, there’s golf, theme parks, and all sorts of beaches somewhat close.


3-Hawaii- Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe Bay

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam







So the government wants to send you to a place to LIVE where others VACATION… on their dime. CHECK! Activities galore here; beaches, hiking, city life, sight-seeing, awesome food! Pack away those bulky coats and boots, you won’t need them…like ever. Cost of living and distance from family are some cons. Job market may be tougher for spouses, but all four branches of the military are active on Oahu, and there’s the booming tourism industry.


2-Everett- Naval Station Everett

Everett Naval Station
Everett Naval Station








Beautiful Washington State. Hiking, fishing, hunting, camping. Even with the rain, Washington was made for the outdoorsy people. Bustling Seattle is 25 miles away for those job hunters. Slip away to the suburbs if you want a little more peace and quiet.


1-San Diego- Naval Complex San Diego

San Diego Navy Bases
San Diego Navy Bases





I’m so biased because my alma mater is here, so I chose San Diego before the Navy chose it for us. Perfect weather, plenty of activities, wide and varied job market. I will say that the cost of living is significantly higher here. It’s SoCal, you give and you get.

Bonus: Other countries, Japan, Italy, Spain, etc. If you can, I say, try an international duty station. Join the navy, see the world right? You’ll have great stories and life experiences to tell your grandkids one day.

No matter where you go, make the most of it and check out this bucket list of things to do at a new duty station

Notes: I graded the items that were personally important to me: a decent job market, a variety of activities, a combo of city/suburb living, large naval presence that is integrated into the civilian world as opposed to a navy base that pretty much runs the town.

Let’s hear it… what are your top 5?


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19 Comments on 5 Best Duty Stations for Navy Personnel and Families

  1. My personal Top 5 from experience.

    1. Everett, WA
    2. Rota, Spain
    3. San Diego, CA
    4. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
    5. Naples, Italy

    I’ve also been to Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, Pensacola, Florida, and Norfolk, VA. Norfolk was the worst duty station. There are no positives to live in Hampton Roads.

    • I’m so jealous that you’ve been to all of those places. I might make a do a follow-up post that features an “audience vote” of the best duty stations. Thanks for the insights!

    • I’ve lived in a few of those and I’m surprised you said Norfolk was lacking in off base activities. The beaches are wonderful and Busch Gardens is just a short drive. Washington DC is a 3 hours and the Virginia Mountains are not much further away – I guess it just depends on what you are looking to do. I can also say that the education system is much better in Virginia than California, Florida, or Hawaii. So if you are looking for someplace that has good schools for your children Hampton Roads is definitely #1 on that list.

      • I just pcs’d from Hawaii and may still have an island sense of distance so if it’s more than 15 minutes drive, I think it’s “far”. Lol. I have heard wonderful things about the school system in Virginia though. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Been in Corpus, Jacksonville, Pensacola (for a short while) and now currently Spain. So far the best is Spain and absolute worst is Corpus!

  3. I have really enjoyed my time in Norfolk, VA. It has everything I could want…beaches, restaurants, shopping, fun family friendly activities. The hardest part of moving to Norfolk is finding the right neighborhood for your family. The area is so big. I recommend reading neighborhood reviews from other military families and use a military friendly realtor. It will make your time here so much more enjoyable!

  4. I love Norfolk. There are plenty of fun activities within a reasonable driving distance. I think the major mistake many navy families make when they move to Hampton Roads is not choosing a place to live close to the base where they work. It seems there are a lot of folks who choose to live in VA beach, even though they work in Norfolk. These people complain about the commute. In general, heavy traffic and dealing with tunnels and bridges everywhere can be the major drawback to Hampton Roads, but with some thoughtful planning, it’s not usually a big deal.

    • I agree that commute is a major part of your overall happiness at a duty station. My husband worked at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, and some of his coworkers lived clear across the island, and that was a 90 minute commute sometimes, therefore they “hated” Hawaii. thanks for your insights!

    • There may be never be a definitive list because everyone’s preferences/experiences are different. Some like the small town feel(Charleston, Lemoore, Whidbey Island), some like the city (San Diego, Jacksonville, Everett), some like different countries (Japan, Spain, Italy). It would be great if someone could somehow survey everyone and do a massive poll 🙂

  5. We are doing our second tour in Norfolk. It does have some great activities although they can be a bit of a drive. And being in a place where doctors understand Tricare prime vs standard is nice as well as the Nex being bigger than a 7-11. But the traffic is ridiculous. I know locals who will tell you it’s bad. I’ve seen people make turns across oncoming traffic from the opposite turn lane. The tunnels and bridges back up all the time because people don’t follow traffic signs or panic about them, causing accidents. I grew up near Chicago, I understand traffic happens, but this is mind boggling traffic. Just watch people try to merge. You’d think it was rocket science. Another downside is not all the schools are great. Norfolk and Portsmouth schools and neighborhoods tend to have some bad reputations. One of my friends grew up in Norfolk and when we moved back she tried to talk us out of looking at houses in Portsmouth. Some areas, like ours, are nice, but others are very sketchy. Our favorite duty station was Saratoga Springs/Ballston Spa. Cute little upstate NY town, very family friendly, but also very little military. Joint Base Charleston in Goose Creek, SC had a really nice (and mostly new!) base housing program but good luck getting anything delivered on base and military-isolated.

    • Oh brother, traffic around any large and major Navy base is a hot mess. My poor husband worked on Coronado and we lived in North San Diego. One two lane bridge in, One two-lane bridge out. I definitely agree with you that not every duty station is perfect and has its nice parts and bad parts. Since this list came out, I’m getting feedback that Charleston should be on the list… maybe one day 🙂

  6. My husband joined the Navy “late” in life, so we met in San Diego and he will finish up in San Diego. My father was Air Force, so I have been all over – my favorites were Scott AFB Illinois, Hickam AFB Hawaii and Lackland AFB San Antonio, TX. San Diego is my favorite place by far. I spent a year in the Seattle area and I really do not like living there. Too depressing for a Miami girl (where I’m from – my parents met while my dad was stationed on what used to be Homestead AFB- where I was also born). I’ve got four states left to visit and San Diego will probably remain my favorite place in the US (other than Hawaii, but I wouldn’t want to live there). – Heather, Life of a Traveling Navy Wife

  7. I know this is old, but I completely disagree about Norfolk.Granted we just came from San Diego and it is hard to beat that place, but this is the WORST place I have ever lived. It is so ugly, roads are horrible, traffic is horrendous, houses are way overpriced actually, and there is NOT a support system despite the fact there is a large military presence. We are counting down our days to getting out of here. Military housing is SO bad, poorly made and in poor areas, and do NOT step foot in Norfolk if you have kids in school. In fact, if you have kids it will be hard finding good schools here period. I am originally from Charleston, SC, so you would think I would be happier to be closer to home, but I’d rather be living in Charleston. I think Virginia Beach/Norfolk area is so transient and saturated with military there is no identity. No cool scenes or neighborhoods, and no good restaurants. And while I have not lived in Jacksonville, I have been there several times. I feel as if Virginia Beach is the product child of Jacksonville and Myrtle Beach. And that is not a compliment. I hope that we get back to San Diego or Hawaii. Seattle would be awesome too! But San Diego would be my top choice for sure!

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